Friday Things: The Curses Foiled Again Edition

More bad news on the deer front this week.  Last night’s conquest—an until now untouched shrub—was so violently ravaged that out of respect I feel like I should cover its snapped branches with more than deer netting.

I spotted the prong-horned culprit and his gang of thieves as I pulled into the driveway at the end of the day. They were lurking across the street on the edge of the open space ready to chow down once I’d retired for the night.   I figured I’d outsmarted them by applying “Liquid Fence” earlier in the day to the areas they’d attacked before.  Instead they fooled me by going for the unprotected shrub they’d ignored before.  Well-played Bambi.  Well-played.

A tour of the fenced back garden lifted my spirits, however.  We have a bumper crop of Sun Gold tomatoes and these black stemmed dahlias are still going strong.

That’s the nature of gardens.  They can break your heart in one quadrant at the same time that they’re melting your heart in another.  I’ll just have to keep fighting the good fight out front while enjoying the blossoms out back.  Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to go apply another round of “Liquid Fence” before the sun goes down.

Here are some other things I tried to watch out for this week:

How to keep good tomatoes fresh.

 Inkblot-inspired Decor.

“Difficulty often becomes an engine forcing intimacy between a book and its reader; that expenditure of effort and attention becomes a kind of glue.” Author Leslie Jamison on the value of tackling inaccessible books.

A German literary critic reviews the latest IKEA catalog.

Paper dolls made from porcelain. -

Garrison Keillor on retiring.

Charming video on how to age gracefully.

Happy Labor Day Weekend All!

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Friday Things: The Aerial View Edition

So how are you spending the last weekend of summer?  I’ll be deadheading  plants, doing laundry and generally catching up after yet another trip to Utah. Three family weddings (including Will’s) had me flying into the Beehive State once a month over the summer.

On a clear day, the descent into Salt Lake City is quite lovely.  The evaporation ponds on the northeast side of the Great Salt Lake are colored in vivid shades of red, green and purple caused by the minerals left over after evaporation (above).  This last trip, however, smoke from fires in surrounding states placed a gray filter over the view.  Here’s what the descent looked like last Friday.

Things didn’t clear up much over the weekend but by Tuesday when I flew home there was a hint of blue sky and more of that jewel-like aerial art. Much better.  (Any wedding metaphor here? Well, I’d advise all the newlyweds to let the smoke clear when assessing their fledgling marriages.)

Which reminds me that you might be interested in following THE.JEFFERSON.GRID on Instagram to see artful square mile aerial shots from Google Maps (thanks for the tip, Claire). Here are a few other things worth looking at this week:

The elegant graphics of the digital game Prune.

Stylish self-watering planters.

Graphic contemporary quilts at a relatively good price point (speaking as a quilter.)

This guy’s explanation for how his email ended up on the Ashley Madison website.

How the modern dating crisis plays out in Mormon and Jewish cultures (thanks, Syd.)

The bias against air conditioning (not new, but of interest since we’re thinking about adding air conditioning to our home.)

Theo Jansen’s eerily beautiful Strandbeests strolling on the beach.

Pep Talk Generator.

And finally, the song of my summer was on the playlist of every wedding we attended.  It’s been a hit with the next generation ever since they saw their uncle M.J. boogie down to “Brick House” at Sydney’s wedding three years ago.

 Happy Last Weekend of Summer All!


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Friday Things: The Fire Season Edition

Today the air smells like smoke and the sky is buzzing with helicopters.  I suspect they’re monitoring the fires north of us that are burning out of control. I am watching them circle the Bay and thinking about the Oakland Hills Firestorm in 1991.

We didn’t lose our home but close friends did and I remember the shock and confusion as we sat together in our front room and watched the television reports of their neighborhood burning. The afternoon sun glowed red in a sky turned black.  For days ash rained down on our cars, yards and homes. For months afterwards the burn area looked like a moonscape.  You grew quiet when you drove through it.  Out of respect.  And also because you felt relieved and somewhat guilty that you’d been spared.

For now our house seems to be safe, but my new garden is suffering. The deer have become more aggressive—eating newly planted bushes they’d left alone until now. Perhaps they would have anyway, drawn by the apples ripening on the front yard tree, or maybe the fires are driving them closer to the water.  Just to be safe.

Some other things I tracked this week.

Keeping gravity at bay with the Lexus Hoverboard.

Some nifty summer drink ideas (including non-alchoholic or easy to make so options) here and here.

Would it be optimal to die at 75?

Smart talk about Jon Stewart.

“If you have information to send out through space and time, you must build it a story that knows how to motor.” On symbolism and metaphor–author Neil Gaiman by way of Justine Munk.

I bet this is what surfing feels like.

WAVEFORM from O’Neill on Vimeo.

Happy Weekend All!


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Friday Things: The Pioneer Day Edition

When I was a kid the biggest event of the summer happened one town down the line on July 24th. Known as “Pioneer Day” or, more pragmatically, “The 24th,” this county-wide celebration commemorated the day that Brigham Young entered the Salt Lake Valley after leading his people across the plains. On that fateful July 24 in 1847 Young rose up from his sickbed to announce that the pioneers had finally found a home. His “this is the place” pronouncement launched a flotilla of crepe paper floats in small town parades across the Intermountain West for decades to come.

When I was a teenager I marched in the county parade in a short pinstriped jumper and white Keds with my high school drill team and later rode on the front hood of a sports car in a pale blue Gunny Sax dress (see above) waving my best beauty queen wave.

As a child I was most often a bystander hoping to catch the salt water taffy thrown from the flatbed floats carrying displays of our proud history.  But one summer a friend’s dad arranged for us to ride our bikes in the parade and we spent the night before weaving red and yellow crepe paper through the spokes of our bike wheels and making tassles to dangle off the handlebars.  We dressed up as clowns and threw our own candy stash out of our bike baskets as we rode beside the floats depicting busted handcarts and giant beehives.  Makes me hanker for some salt water taffy just thinking about that giddy ride.

Here are a few other things I’m thinking about on this Pioneer Day.

The inspiration behind Sea Ranch.

Cross-stitched furniture.

This image of a girl with her head in the (cotton-candy) clouds.

Shoes made from ocean waste.

Almonds and chilies in a summer melon salad. 

Letting kids figure things out on their own.

Some thoughts on Bill Cosby.

Penn Jillette on Donald Trump.

James Corden, Rod Stewart & A$AP carpooling.

Happy Pioneer Day All!

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My Giant June

You know how big events often dog pile in your calendar rather than lining up in an orderly fashion? That was my June. It all started with our daughter Sydney’s graduation from Harvard Law School.  Harvard Law.   Quite remarkable that.  And then a week later her little brother Will’s graduation from MIT.  Really, no words. Just a whole lot of gratitude (and some incredulity) that despite the stumbles we made along the way things turned out so well for our kids.

Rather than fly back and forth across the country to attend both graduations we rented a charming house full of nautical knickknacks on Cape Cod for the week in between.

We took leisurely day trips to learn about pilgrims and whalers and caught glorious sunsets on nearly empty beaches before spending most evenings watching home renovation shows because that’s what the kids wanted to do—go figure.

After touching down briefly back here in California we flew to Salt Lake City where Will was married to his lovely bride Lori.

Though Lori and her family threw the main wedding party outdoors in a picture-perfect orchard we hosted several other events including a cozy rehearsal dinner at Brigham Young’s former home where our gathered families toasted the handsome couple and sang Happy Birthday to me for my 57th birthday.

After sending the newly minted Mr. & Mrs. Pritchett off on their honeymoon with a paper airplane salute we headed home to finish up some projects in time to host a rollicking California celebration.

A few days later we celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary with coral-themed gifts as dictated by the internet custom.

Every event of the past month was significant and there’s lots more to share about each one but for now I’ll leave you with a few insights from the month.

  • Harvard sure knows how to “pomp” it up.
  • As they wait backstage, soon-to-be MIT graduates are instructed to take their diplomas and “then remember to shake the presenter’s hand.”
  • Lobster rolls rock.
  • Every home renovation and sale on Flip or Flop turns out pretty much the same and yet you still want to see if they’ll score the sale.
  • There’s no way to pack light when you’re the Mother of the Groom.
  • Fertilize, fertilize, fertilize if you want your garden to bloom on cue.
  • Mulch makes everything better.
  • You can serve ice cream cake to 150 people over a 3 hour block with the help of a little dry ice and a rented freezer.
  • Your husband of 35 years can still surprise you with the perfect anniversary gift.

Details to follow.

Nice to be back.

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Friday Things: The Bowl of Cherries Edition

Goodness gracious things have been busy around here. The wrapping up of the garden renovation, wedding and travel planning, some local travel writing for the San Francisco Chronicle and a few speaking opportunities have kept me on the go, go, go.  I’d like to take a break and tell you all about it but that won’t be possible for a few more weeks.  Two of our kids are graduating from college/grad school on the east coast and our son is getting married in Utah a couple of weeks later followed by a wedding shindig here at our new home (and in our new garden!)  It’s that time of year and that time of life.  So please, excuse my sporadic posts, enjoy some cherries, and let’s meet back here in July. Deal?

In the meantime, some things to consider:

Natural materials yoga props.

Do I really need to learn to Snapchat?

Supersized diamonds.

Supersize = No Big Deal.

Passwords – “like a tatoo. . intimate, compact and expressive.”

Toasted Marshmallow Milkshakes.

Don Draper wrote that Coke ad after all.

And Tina Fey strips down to her lady contraptions as a send-off for David Letterman.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend All!

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Bird Watching


The poet Nikki Giovanni once said that she spent a lot of time learning about bird watching.  Placing these birdbath basalt rocks in my new garden has made me want to do the same. We’ve created our own little aviary hammam out front and when I’m around I try to sit very still so I don’t frighten the winged skinny-dippers away.  Just wish I knew their names.  I’d like to be a better hostess. Any suggestions for beginner bird watching guides?

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San Francisco Decorator Showcase 2015

If this year’s San Francisco Decorator Showcase is any indicator, color is making a comeback.  The hushed neutrals of the past have been replaced by sumptuous hues and bold graphics that feel fresh and invigorating.  For example, in Cecilie Starin’s black and white dining room the abstract murals by San Francisco street muralist Ian Ross along with inventive art pieces (see above) made from street artists’ spray paint cans embrace the unconventional.

Which is only fitting since this is a home that celebrates a famed woman architect’s progressive vision. Julia Morgan designed the house in 1917 for “Dried Fruit King” Abraham Rosenberg and his wife Alice specifying an unusual choice of material–concrete–for the Tudor style home. You can see some of Morgan’s own quotes lining the entrance stairway designed by Candace Barnes.

Upstairs on the press preview day, designer Will Wick hung one last piece of art on the moss green walls of his elegant master bedroom. The soothing but sophisticated wall color combined with cream accents sets off the art beautifully.

Next door, designer Tineke Triggs paired an emerald green chaise with graphic tile and Keith Haring-like art.  When pressed Triggs revealed that the large photo of the cat-eyed woman–inspired by a Vogue magazine cover from the 70s–was Triggs herself!

Adjacent dressing rooms feature neutral backdrops with subtle swaths of color. Hers is a soft cocoon of pastels while His features edgier grays and blacks.

Teen boy’s gear references the colors in the custom bed coverings made from fabric designed by Jean Paul Gautier and discovered in France by fabricator Susan Chastain.  Decorative painter Willem Racke’s lacquered ombre’ finish on the walls was inspired by rock striations along the California coast.

Two upper rooms showcase whimsical wallpaper.  The laundry room features bright butterflies on the walls and custom drying racks above the washer/dryer.

A smoochy wallpaper covers the walls in the upstairs bath and seals the whole showcase with a kiss.

The lip colors recall the palette of the glam living room by Philip Silver Design.

As well as the merlot colored walls of the game room. “We decided to embrace Pantone’s controversial color of the year,” says designer Jeff Schlarb. “It’s actually quite lovely to watch it change throughout the day.”

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, plan to tour this beautiful showcase house before it closes on May 25, Memorial Day.  Details can be found at

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Digging Life

My friend Jana says putting in a new garden is like giving birth.  Painful and messy at the time but you quickly forget all that once your new pride and joy has arrived.  This has been an intense mother of a week with soil, rock and plant deliveries arriving almost daily and several professional crews on site to place and plant the new arrivals. More about that soon, along with my report on this year’s San Francisco Decorator Showcase. In the meantime, have a good weekend all!

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Friday Things: The Good Fences Edition

The garden project continues in full swing.  So full that I’ve hardly looked at anything this week that didn’t have petals or leaves. Except maybe the dirt surrounding our house–specifically, the dirt that surrounds my house vs. the dirt that surrounds my neighbors’ house.

Our property is bordered on three sides by open space owned by the utility company.  The other side includes a raised berm that runs between our driveway and the home of some sweet elderly neighbors who have lived there for thirty years.  When selecting plants for the garden, we discussed the general plan for the space on our side of the shared berm. Our intention was to add more deer-resistant plants like the rhododendrons that line their side of the berm. (Our side consisted of bare dirt and an overgrown phormium on its last stick-like legs.) The neighbors agreed to the plan but then I inadvertently (truly) deviated from it by purchasing an especially pretty red maple while shopping for the back yard plants and planted it on what I thought was our side of the property line. That red maple has turned into one especially pretty red flag.

The neighbors had some concerns. (Again, have I mentioned they’re lovely people?) They thought the tree might be on their property and weren’t interested in maintaining it long term–even if their long term isn’t so long.  I understood where they were coming from but thought that I’d planted it on our side and furthermore fully intend to care for it. We consulted the parcel map but it was hard to determine where the line fell.  The property is oddly shaped with a triangular bit that extends over towards the neighbors’ house.  All well and good if you know where any point of the triangle exists, but just by looking at the map it’s hard to make that out. Using a VERY long tape measurer and measuring from the back (we think) of our property, M.J. laid out a possible borderline but things were iffy enough that both sides agreed it was best to hire a surveyor to settle the matter.

In the meantime we rebuilt the shabby little plywood fence at the edge of another border and painted it a neutral gray to disappear behind the plants about to be planted.  It’s a low fence–only three feet high.  But it serves as a screen to block the view of the large cement blocks that anchor a transmission tower that stands in the utility company open space. Clearly this little fence would do nothing to stop that tower from tumbling down in the case of an earthquake or prevent trespassers from leaping stepping over it. But it quietly suggests that the massive tower footings and strangers (there’s no hope for the deer) belong on the other side of the fence. Guess we have some border issues as well.

This week when I bought the rest of the new plants I purchased two especially pretty red rhododendrons as a peace offering to the neighbors. We’ll plant them on the to-be-determined border in front of their kitchen window where before there was only dirt and if we have to we’ll adjust the maple placement to make sure it’s definitely on our side of the line. We’re doing our best to make everyone happy with their lots in life.

Besides plants and dirt, here are a few other things that caught my attention this week:

Martha Stewart’s favorite clematis (and check out that garden structure to support them!)

Thinking a Calder-like mobile in the new garden could be cool.

Could these be the ultimate oatmeal raisin cookies?

Have you settled on your work uniform?

How one casting agent changed pop culture.

Happy Weekend All!



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Kathryn Pritchett

writes about Things Elemental — where we find shelter, why we connect, what sustains us and how we strut our stuff.

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    • Back deck (and front of house) dressed for the season. #goodnessandlight